Lobs & Lessons: Teaching kids tennis and life lessons

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One summer tennis camp goes beyond teaching the basics of the backhand or serve.

“This camp is not just to help the kids learn about tennis, but to learn how to be a good person and have good sportsmanship,” said Lauryn Hutchinson, camp counselor at Lobs & Lessons.   

Lobs & Lessons Summer Program at Virginia Commonwealth University offers tennis instruction alongside lessons on how to live a healthy lifestyle to children in grades K-9. It is one of the 650 chapters of the National Junior Tennis and Learning network, and it has grown substantially over the years.  

“The tennis is the main draw for the kids, the lessons we teach is what interests the parents,” said Tina Carter, director of the Mary and Frances Youth Center, which hosts the program. “It’s a place for children from different backgrounds to come together and just be kids.” 

Each week is focused on an age group, and some kids return year after year to advance through the age sets. As the groups get older, the tennis activities become more challenging. Students are taught in a progression format — not everything is taught at once, rather it is presented in pieces and tied all together at the end of the week. Within each week, every group is taught about nutrition, art and growing up.   

Each day features different tennis activities and concludes with swimming at the Cary Street Gym. The activities vary year to year to keep the returning kids interested.

The camp’s nutritional lessons caught some children’s attention. Luke, a second-grader from Linwood Holton Elementary School, learned that he can use apple slices instead of bread to make small sandwiches.

“Also, I know that when I sweat, I am hydrated,” he said.   

The kids play educational games that involve sugar content within common snacks. The object of the game is to guess how much sugar is in the snacks by estimating with sugar cubes. Then they discuss alternatives to the unhealthy snack.  

Whether the campers are newbies or returnees, the program offers a diverse camp experience for everyone. 

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, what your skills are, this is the place to come to learn about yourself,” Carter said.

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